Meet Murciélago, my 2005 Honda Element 4WD EX
“It’s the only way to live. In cars.”
~ Gary Numan, English singer-songwriter
From 2013 to 2018, I successfully lived in Mexico and Colombia without a car. In these countries, public transportation is safe and reliable (though not always timely and clean), and a majority of people never even buy a vehicle, opting instead to take taxis, ride buses, hop on motorcycles, and walk extensively.
In 2018, I returned to the United States and spent several months borrowing cars, using paid car services, and doing my best to avoid buying a vehicle. I even debated going car-free, after reading the inspiring book “How to Live Well Without Owning a Car” by Chris Balish.
Since the metropolis where I live doesn’t have the car-free options found in larger cities, I began searching for a cost-effective vehicle: a reasonably-priced daily driver that could also haul my 1981 Vespa and double as a living space for camping and weekend getaways.
Enter the Element
With my criteria set, I focused on a car that was roomy but not enormous, something more utilitarian than a minivan but less sporty than a Jeep. Most importantly, I wanted something to accommodate both my scooter and me comfortably.
I decided on a Honda Element: a vehicle known for the reliability of being a Honda, but with a unique, adventure-friendly design, one that features wide-open “suicide” doors, flat-folding/removable seats and a pop-up rear sunroof.
The Search and Score of My Element
In my quest to track down an Element, I learned these coveted vehicles were produced by Honda from 2003 to 2011. I found online groups created by Element owners, and an entire culture dedicated to literally living in their Element. My RAS focused on something that resonated with me as adventurous, reliable, responsible, fun, and unique. Bam!
From October to December 2018, I test drove pre-owned Elements, dodging comments from sleazy salesmen about a woman wanting an adventure car, and ignoring “your credit is your down payment” offers from dealerships. I even walked away from unsolicited opinions, refusing to sign “as is” warranties without detailed inspection reports.
One morning in late January 2019, I received an email from a dealership where a longtime friend worked as the finance manager. I knew I had to purchase the Element from her workplace and, of course, she offered me a fair price with excellent service.
Murciélago, The Adventure Bat
After a few days of driving my Element, I decided on the name Murciélago, Spanish for bat, since the vehicle is black, stealthy, and enjoys hanging out (parked) as well as flying (down the road). With 170,000 + miles at purchase and corny (but well-made) paw-print seat covers, my appreciation is deep for Murcié’s longevity.
So far, our excursions include transporting El Banano from Sacramento to San Luis Obispo and back for the Rides of March scooter rally, hauling numerous household items to and from secondhand stores, and delivering a queen-sized box spring with the mattress strapped carefully to the roof.
Onward and Into the Elements
Our next adventure will probably be overnight “car camping,” influenced by Element dwellers Ethan Maurice and YouTubers Phil and Vanessa Chan. Whatever is ahead with Murcié, it’s sure to be fun and worthwhile.